The greed of Kurdish nationalists

Published 15.07.2015 22:31
Updated 16.07.2015 00:08

Competition, not compromise, dominates Turkish politics today. The attitude of violent Kurdish nationalists attests to the above statement. On July 12, the Kurdish Communities Union (KCK) issued a written statement accusing the Turkish government of violating the cease-fire. "The PKK will target all dams," the organization said. Although members of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) downplayed the threats as "a warning," the militants proceeded to light construction vehicles on fire and assault security forces. To be fair, the leadership of the PKK and HDP did a great job exploiting the circumstances ahead of the June 7 parliamentary elections. At this time, the region-wide situation helps their cause. With the Arab Spring revolutions leading nowhere, Kurdish nationalists moved to make the best out of what they believe to be a historic opportunity. Having formed temporary alliances with various organizations on the ground, including the Syrian regime, the Democratic Union Party's (PYD) People's Protection Units (YPG) ended up fighting a proxy war for the United States in the Middle East. Ironically enough, the organization adopted the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) strategy of building a standing army of foreign fighters leaving Western countries to fight as volunteers and mercenaries. Like Iran's Shiite militias, the foreign fighters among the YPG's ranks get a free pass from the international community.

Meanwhile, the domestic situation allows the movement to get the best of both worlds. While the HDP pays lip service to peace and reconciliation, the KCK serves as a source of fear and intimidation. In recent years, this strategy not only ensured the PKK's continued involvement in violence, but also helped the organization emerge as a hegemonic power in Turkey's southeast. Covering themselves with the pseudo legitimacy of opposition to the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the Kurdish radicals had their cake and ate it too. In light of the above assessment, what does the PKK's rekindled interest in violence mean? At this point, the organization's primary aim is to prevent the security forces, whom the Kurdish reconciliation process led to lenience, from ending their dominance in the region. Regardless of the outcome of ongoing coalition talks, however, the government has no option but to reassert public order, which is why the PKK, believing that it can preach peace and violence at the same time, made a strategic move to flex its muscles. In the end, it all boils down to the eagerness of Kurdish radicals, children of a late nationalism, to make the most out of their so-called historic moment.

Nothing indicates that the organization will abandon its current strategy in the near future. There are at least three reasons for the current situation to continue:

1. The PKK seeks to exploit its partnership with the United States against ISIS to attain greater legitimacy and expand its capacity for violence.

2. The organization believes that its accomplishments in Iraq and Syria can translate into additional strength in Turkey. The PKK leadership has no reason to revise its position and believes that the HDP's influence over Kurds will allow it to overcome future challenges. Through acts of civil disobedience and assaults against development projects, the organization will continue to stay in the limelight.

3. The PKK and HDP believe that a weak coalition government and early elections will both create a hospitable environment for its policy of promoting peace and violence at the same time.

There is no doubt that Kurdish nationalists will exploit the idea of peace and threaten the people with war as long as violence continues in the Middle East. The only apparent way to contain the greed of Kurdish nationalists is for Turkey and the United States to take the next step in their bilateral relations by developing a common strategy to fight ISIS and the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

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